QUESTION: I live in Manhattan Beach and I rent out a room in my house to a lodger. What are my rights and duties when I want to evict the lodger?
ANSWER: When there is only one lodger in an owner-occupied dwelling, you need only give the lodger a notice to vacate of the same duration as the tenancy. He can do the same to terminate the tenancy.
For instance, if the tenancy is weekly a one-week notice to vacate is sufficient. If the tenancy is monthly, a 30-day notice is required. The manner of rent payment, weekly or monthly, generally sets the tenancy’s duration.
If the lodger doesn’t leave after the notice expires, he is considered a trespasser and may be removed by the local police department. Remember, this remedy only applies to lodgers in owner-occupied dwellings where there is only one lodger/tenant.
Tenant Changes Mind on When to Move Out
Q: I live in Palm Desert and I also rent out some apartments there. Recently, I had a problem with one of my renters and I’m hoping you can help me solve it.
Tenant A gives a 30-day notice of his intention to vacate the premises. Tenant B, another of my renters, says he’ll take A’s apartment at $50 more rent. I advertise tenant B’s apartment at $50 higher rent, but get no firm takers on it.
A few days before move-out time Tenant A says he can’t move out for at least another 30 days. I believe Tenant A is responsible for the $50 rent increase and the cost of my advertising of Tenant B’s apartment. Do you concur?
A: According to Trevor Grimm, general counsel, Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA): “I concur.” Grimm said that the renter did not have the right to rescind the notice unilaterally.
As a result of Tenant A’s action (or inaction), you are entitled to damages, meaning the added $50 (market value) rent and the cost of the advertising for the lost month.
You should ask the renter for the money. If he doesn’t pay, you can sue in Small Claims Court to try to recover it.
Cancellation Law Doesn’t Include Rentals
Q: A couple of months ago, the lease expired on my Los Angeles apartment. I signed a one-year lease at another apartment and the next day I paid the apartment manager the first month’s rent and the security deposit.
That night, I realized that this was not the apartment for me. I would never be happy in this place. The next morning, less than 24 hours after paying the rent and deposit, I went to the manager and asked if I could cancel the lease and get my money refunded.
She said that she had already given the money order to the owner and there was nothing she could do about it. I called the landlord and pleaded with him to let me out of the lease but he said no.
I called a local renters’ rights group and they told me that under California state law I had a three-day grace period in which to cancel any kind of contract. Another organization gave me similar information but could not officially confirm it.
Based on these comments, I sent the manager a certified letter explaining that I did not want the apartment while apprising him of the three-day grace period for cancellation of contracts.
The landlord said he has never heard of such a law and refuses to refund the rent. He offered to let us give a 30-day notice and not be obligated for any rent after that time. He also said that if he rented the apartment within the 30 days that I would get a prorated refund of rent.
Of course, the apartment did not rent during the 30 days. We have been refunded the amount of the security deposit, but we are wondering about the rent. Was the landlord right in what he did or can we get our money back? Is there such a law in California that allows one to cancel this type of contract within three days?
A: While there is a law in California that allows you to cancel certain contracts within three days, like contracts for aluminum siding, it does not apply to leases of real property.
The landlord had the right to keep the rent and the obligation to refund the deposit. Had he re-rented the unit within the 30 days, the law requires that he refund you the prorated rent.
For your information, the landlord could have held you liable for the rent until he re-rented the property for up to the full term of the year’s lease, assuming he made good faith efforts to rent the unit out. Never sign a lease until you are absolutely sure you will be happy in the apartment.
How Can Owner Collect Late Payment Fee?
Q: I have a rental property located in Hermosa Beach and I have a problem. It is written into the rental agreement that the renters will pay a 5% late fee, about $75, when they don’t pay the rent on time, but they won’t pay it.
Can I deduct the late payment from the security deposit? If not, what are my options besides eviction?
A: Since the late charge is written into the rental agreement, the renters are violating it when they don’t pay. The remedy for that is eviction, which doesn’t help you.
If the rent charge is labeled “additional rent” in the lease or rental agreement you may deduct the charges from the security deposit as unpaid rent. Your other option is to recover it in Small Claims Court.